Maine Universal Service Fund

Pursuant to 35-A M.R.S. §7104 and Chapter 288, the Commission administers the Maine Universal Service Fund (MUSF or Fund), which encourages universal service and reasonable rates. The MUSF distributes approximately $7.4 million annually to ensure that provider of last resort telephone (POLR) service is available to consumers throughout all areas of the State at reasonably comparable rates by providing support from the Fund to eligible providers. POLR companies receiving support include:

POLR Company Total Disbursement
Consolidated Communications of Maine Company $508,372
Cobbosseecontee Telephone & Telegraph Company $90,387
Hampden Telephone Company $270,763
Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company $610,801
Island Telephone Company $626,953
Mid Maine Telecom, LLC $564,098
Somerset Telephone Company $2,480,126
Tidewater Telecom, Inc. $145,078
Union River Telephone Company $235,367
UniTel $822,215
Warren Telephone Company $425,064
West Penobscot Telephone Company $618,153
   
Total $7,397,377

In addition, the MUSF provides support for other uses and services such as the Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), Communications Equipment Fund (CEF), Blind and Visually Impaired News Access Fund, and the Public Interest Payphone (PIP) program.

Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)

TRS are used to allow deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech impaired persons to place and receive voice telephone calls with the assistance of a third-party intermediary. Maine statute provides that in order to ensure the affordability of TRS throughout the State, the Commission shall establish funding support for these services, including related outreach programs, within the MUSF. The TRS Advisory Council (Council) implements the Maine TRS program as certified by the FCC. Other explicitly defined duties of the Council include the ability to contract for intrastate TRS and outreach services, to organize and fund projects to promote the use of TRS and to develop, administer and fund pilot projects to provide access to TRS. Pursuant to statute, the Council submits to the Commission an annual budget of its projected costs for the coming fiscal year, not to exceed $600,000, and the Commission transfers the funds quarterly to the TRS Council Fund to fund Council activities. In 2020, the Commission transferred $275,548 from the MUSF to the Council as requested. The Council is required by statute to submit an annual report to the Commission on December 1, that details the activities of the Council including all Council expenditures from the fund and how all vendors the Council contracts with for services were selected.

Communications Equipment Fund (CEF)

Title 35-A M.R.S § 7104(5) requires the Commission to annually transfer $85,000 from the MUSF to the CEF, which is established pursuant to 26 M.R.S. § 1419-A. The CEF is administered by the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services within the Department of Labor (the Bureau). The CEF is used by the Division of Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened within the Bureau for the purchase, lease, distribution, upgrading, installation, maintenance and repair of specialized customer communications equipment for deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened or speech impaired persons and persons with disabilities, for training in the use of such equipment, and for administrative costs. In addition to the required amount, the Bureau may request that the Commission transfer an additional annual amount of $100,000 to the CEF if the Bureau does not receive sufficient funds from federal or other sources to carry out the purposes of the CEF. The Bureau has requested and received from the MUSF this additional support for the past ten years; hence the Commission has transferred a total of $185,000 to the CEF in each of those years.

Blind and Visually Impaired News Access Fund

In 2019, the Maine Legislature established the Blind and Visually Impaired News Access Fund pursuant to 35-A M.R.S. §7104(9), which established a dedicated fund within the Maine State Library to be used to provide access to a news service provided by a national federation for blind and visually impaired persons. The Commission shall annually transfer $40,000 from the MUSF to support this program.

Public Interest Payphone (PIP) program

Beginning in 2007, pursuant to 35-A M.R.S. § 7508 and Chapter 252 of the Commission’s rules, the Commission has overseen the installation of Public Interest Payphone (PIP) sites throughout Maine. In 2020, the Commission did not receive any new requests for PIPs. The Commission did receive a request to remove an underutilized PIP in one location. The annual cost of the program, which currently includes 33 PIPs, is approximately $28,000 and is funded by the Maine Universal Service Fund (MUSF).

The following chart provides more detail about where MUSF funds are distributed.

Maine Telecommunications-Education-Access-Fund pie chart, Information in table below

Maine Telecommunications Education Access Fund

  • Transport Services, $2,735,433
  • Library Content Databases, $597,001
  • Operational Services, $403,176 
  • Technical Services, $164,799
  • Internet Access Services, $66,250
  • Fund Administrator, $34,242